Top story of the Year:
Newton recovers after tornado
PHOTO OF THE YEAR Adam Cinqmars, 1, of Forest, keeps a close watch on his wooden toy horse after it was salvaged from a family business that was destroyed a day earlier, Dec. 19, when a tornado devastated Newton. This photo, one of many depicting the Newton tornado and its aftermath, was chosen by editors of The Meridian Star as the Photo of the Year. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Jan. 1, 2003
NEWTON Residents of this small, East Mississippi city are recovering and cleaning up what remains two weeks after a powerful tornado ripped through the community.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on Dec. 19, just seven days before Christmas, a line of heavy thunderstorms produced a tornado packing 157 mph winds that ravaged downtown Newton.
Minutes later, a second tornado with winds of up to 72 mph hit southern Lauderdale County. While that storm damaged homes and snapped trees, it wasn't as intense as Newton's twister.
The Newton storm struck hundreds of homes and businesses. Part of the BP gas station on Scanlan Street was destroyed. The nearby Wal-Mart on Highway 80 was damaged. More than 50 people were injured.
And the event which attracted statewide and national attention quickly became the No. 1 news story of 2002.
Damage assessments show that eight homes and five businesses were destroyed. Another 43 homes and 15 businesses had major damage, and 130 homes and 75 businesses had minor damage.
Newton Mayor Hamp Beatty said the cleanup effort is "progressing well."
For some of the residents of the city of 3,700 people, Dec. 19 was a day they'll never forget.
Pamela Wells watched workers the day after the storm remove trees from New Ireland Street, home to her damaged house. Wells escaped her house without injuries after trees crashed into it.
Some of the most vivid stories came from holiday shoppers who were inside Wal-Mart when the twister hit.
Many of the 50 people reported injured around town included Wal-Mart customers, who were cut by a shower of shattered glass when the store's front windows blew.
Nathan Cumberland of Newton was buying a Christmas present for his dad when the lights started flickering off and on.